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A man stands in the bed of a pickup truck in January 2019 to watch the Snowtown USA fireworks at Dry Hill Ski Area in Watertown. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — This might be the year that you can finally put snow back into Snowtown USA.

The city’s nine-day festival — that pays homage to the north country’s winters — starts on Friday, with a wintry forecast that includes snow for most of the weekend.

In recent months, Snowtown USA co-chairs Erin E. Gardner and Scott M. Weller, the city’s parks and recreation superintendent and assistant superintendent, have been working with about a dozen committee members on planning the festival.

Ms. Gardner hopes the weather cooperates.

“It needs to snow,” she said.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith, who took office two weeks ago, remembers when Snowtown USA was first presented back in the 1980s with ice sculptures, outdoor ice skating and events at Thompson Park.

Back then, the festival also had to endure some January thaws, he said.

And this year, the mayor looks forward to going to some events for the first time while serving as mayor.

“I’ll be looking at the schedule,” he said.

As was the case the last two years, Snowtown USA will start this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and run through next weekend. The festivities begin with a kickoff party at Ives Hill Country Club at 7 p.m. Friday. The classic rock band, FFOG, will perform.

In all, 21 events are planned for the festival. All events are free; most are family oriented.

Many of the same activities will return this year, such as a softball tournament on Saturday and bowling on Monday at Seaway Lanes. Some new ones are making their debut this year.

Thompson Park Day, featuring hot air balloons, dog sled demonstrations and horse drawn sleds, will be among the returning activities. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26.

As for the new events, organizers are adding a Snowtown Pub Crawl this Saturday. It will consist of about 12 stops, starting at 2 p.m. and ending with an after-party at the Garland City Beer Works at 8 p.m.

For smaller children, the PBS character Daniel Tiger will perform two shows on Saturday at the Flower Memorial Library. There also will be crafts and cocoa.

Participants can learn how to play pickleball, a game similar to tennis. And a military appreciation skate will take place at the Watertown Municipal Arena from on Sunday.

Thompson Park Day, featuring hot air balloons, dog sled demonstrations and horse drawn sleds, will be among the returning activities. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26.

Since the festival was brought back in 2014, organizers have scheduled a mixture of outdoor and indoor events just in case the weather interferes. Snowtown is held at a variety of venues around the city, including the Watertown Municipal Arena, the Flower Memorial Library and the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

With a $12,000 to $15,000 budget, the festival doesn’t receive any funding from the city and relies solely on donations and sponsors. However, the city does provide in-kind services.

Watertown First, a nonprofit group that supports local businesses, Americu and the local chapter of AUSA are pitching in to help put on the festival, along with about 25 sponsors and 15 volunteers.

It was 42 years ago when “CBS Evening News” anchor Walter Cronkite coined the phrase “Snowtown USA” when reporting how Watertown received some 220 inches of snow during the winter of 1976-77, which included the blizzard of 1977. A few years later, organizers used it as the name of the new festival.

For more information or a full schedule, go to the winter festival’s website at https://snowtownusa.com/.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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